Applying a kaupapa Māori paradigm to researching takatāpui identities

  • Tangaroa Paora Auckland University of Technology
  • Marcos Mortensen Steagall  (Translator)
Keywords: Kaitahi, Kanohi ki te kanohi interviewing, Kaupapa Māori, Mana, Manaakitanga, Takatāpui


In this practice-led doctoral thesis I adopt a Kaupapa Māori paradigm, where rangahau (gathering, grouping and forming, to create new knowledge and understanding), is grounded in a cultural perspective and Māori holistic worldview that is respectful of tikanga Māori (customs) and āhuatanga Māori (cultural practices). The case study that forms the focus of the presentation asks, “How might an artistic reconsideration of gender role differentiation shape new forms of Māori performative expression”. In addressing this, the researcher is guided and upheld by five mātāpono (principles): 

He kanohi kitea (a face seen, is appreciated) 
Titiro, whakarongo, kōrero (looking, listening and speaking) 
Manaakitangata (sharing and hosting people, being generous) 
Kia tūpato (being cautious) 
Kāua e takahi i te mana o te tangata (avoiding trampling on the mana of participants). 

In connecting these principles and values that are innate within te ao Māori (Māori people and culture) the paper unpacks a distinctive approach taken to interviewing and photographing nine takatāpui tāne (Māori males whose sexuality and gender identification are non-heteronormative). These men’s narratives of experience form the cornerstone of the inquiry that has a research focus on tuakiritanga (identity) where performative expression and connectivity to Māori way of being, causes individuals to carry themselves in distinctive ways. The lived experience of being takatāpui within systems that are built to be exclusive and discriminatory is significant for such individuals as they struggle to reclaim a place of belonging within te ao Māori, re-Indigenise whakaaro (understanding), and tangatatanga (being the self). In discussing a specifically Māori approach to drawing the poetics of lived experience forward in images and text, the presentation considers cultural practices like kaitahi (sharing of food and space), kanohi ki te kanohi kōrero (face to face interviewing), and manaakitangata (hosting with respect and care). The paper then considers the implications of working with an artistic collaborator (photographer), who is not Māori and does not identify as takatāpui yet becomes part of an environment of trust and vulnerable expression. Finally, the paper discusses images surfacing from a series of photoshoots and interviews conducted between August 2021 and February 2023. Here my concern was with how a participant’s identitiy and perfomativity might be discussed when preparing for a photoshoot, and then reviewing images that had been taken. The process involved an initial interview about each person’s identitiy, then a reflection on images emanating from studio session. For the shoot, the participant initially dressed themseleves as the takatāpui tāne who ‘passed’ in the world and later as the takatāpui tāne who dwelt inside. For the researcher, the process of titiro, whakarongo, kōrero (observing, listening and recording what was spoken), resourced a subsequent creative writing exercise where works were composed from fragments of interviews. These poems along with the photographs and interviews, constituted portraits of how each person understood themself as a self-realising, proud, fluid and distinctive Māori individual. 

Author Biography

Tangaroa Paora, Auckland University of Technology

Tangaroa Paul (they/them) of Muriwhenua descent, is in their final year of a PhD in practice-led research that explores gender role differentiation through the nature of performative expression. They also lecture in Te Ara Poutama - Faculty of Māori and Indigenous Studies at Auckland University of Technology, teaching in te reo Māori, Media, Gender Studies and more. Tangaroa is passionate about Kapa Haka (Māori Performing Arts) and is finding a space for gender fluidity to exist in this art form.